Shifting Schaefers

Today would have been the 91st anniversary of Herman and Thekla.  Or was it Benjamin and Onita.  On their Perry County marriage license we see them as Benjamin and Onita.

Schaefer Popp marriage record

On a gravestone, they are Herman and Thekla.  I am going to use Herman and Thekla.

Herman and Thekla Schaefer gravestone Valporaiso IN
Herman and Thekla Schaefer gravestone – Valporaiso, IN

Not only did the names they used shift during their lifetime, but so did their location.  You will discover that as their stories are told.

We will start with Herman.  Although his parents were originally from Perry County….mostly around Uniontown…..Herman was born when the family was living in Chicago, Illinois.  He was the firstborn child of Benjamin and Helena (Dankenbring) Schaefer.  The 1900 census shows this family living in Chicago, and Benjamin was a carpenter.  Three more children were born elsewhere before the Schaefers moved back to Uniontown.  That move must have taken place around 1904.  All of their children were confirmed at Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown.  Here is a photo of the Benjamin Schaefer family.  Herman is standing in the back wearing glasses.

Benjamin Schaefer family
Benjamin Schaefer family

It appears that Benjamin and Helena stayed in Perry County for the remainder of their lives.  However, Herman did not.

Herman was confirmed at Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown in 1911.  The next record I could find of Herman was his World War I draft registration form in 1918.


He describes himself as a 20 year old machinist helper working for the American Steel Factory in Granite City, Illinois.  Here is an old photo of that business.

American Steel Foundry Granite City

In the 1920 census, Herman had returned to Uniontown and was working for his father, who at that time was operating a creamery in the Uniontown area.  Herman was called a butter maker.  That leads us up to the marriage of Herman to Thekla Popp of Frohna on November 27, 1926.

Thekla shifted around too.  Her parents, Emanuel and Clara (Seibel) Popp, were married at Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna in 1896, but when Thekla, their oldest, was born one year later, she was baptized at Zion Lutheran Church in Longtown.  When their 3rd child was born in 1904, these Popps were back in Frohna.  That is where Herman and Thekla were married (only they called themselves Benjamin and Onita).  Here is their wedding photo.

Schaefer Popp wedding
Schaefer/Popp wedding

We do not see Herman and Thekla in any more Perry County census records.  Nor could I find them anywhere in a 1930 or 1940 census.  We do have this other photo of Herman.

Herman Schaefer 2
Herman Schaefer

The next record I found was Herman’s death certificate, and that indicates he died in Valparaiso, Indiana.

Herman Schaefer death certificate – Valparaiso, IN

It shows that he died in 1968.  His usual occupation was listed as “service station”.  Thekla would die later in 1980.  Herman was buried at Graceland Memorial Park in Valparaiso.  His gravestone was shown earlier, but if you look closely, you will see that Thekla does not have a death date inscribed on the stone.  We find another gravestone for Thekla.  It is located in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in Perryville.  It is likely that she moved back to Perry County to be with family in her later years.

Thekla Schaefer gravestone Immanuel Perryville
Thekla Schaefer gravestone – Immanuel, Perryville

And, as you can see, she leaves us in doubt as to what we should call her……Thekla or Onita?

One thought on “Shifting Schaefers

  1. I have seen a number of names where middle names were commonly used when referring to the person. In some cases a child was named to honor another family member, but the parents usually used the middle name when addressing the child. In some cases the child would choose to the other name as they became adults (and maybe had moved to another area).


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